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Intel SSD 730 Series review: A reliable, fast, and pricey HDD substitute

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The Good The Intel SSD 730 Series has a high endurance rating and comes with a five-year warranty. The drive offers a huge boost in performance compared with regular hard drives and can handle RAID configurations.

The Bad The new drive doesn't support encryption, and its performance isn't the best among similarly priced SSDs.

The Bottom Line At launch, the new Intel SSD 730 Series makes a very good internal drive choice for your computer, but it'll become a better value when its street price drops below the current suggested retail price.

7.4 Overall
  • Setup 8
  • Features 7
  • Performance 7
  • Support 9

Intel's latest 730 Series solid-state drive (SSD) is the first from the company that comes with a factory-overclocked SSD controller and NAND bus speeds. However, performance is not its strongest suit, but rather, its endurance.

In my testing, the new SSD was fast, though far from the fastest I've seen. It supports RAID configurations, and when used in RAID 0 its performance was basically doubled. But that's true for most, if not all, RAID-enabled SSDs. The drive has about the same power consumption as a standard 2.5-inch hard drive, which means it won't help with a laptop's battery life.

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The new Intel SSD 730 Series comes with an all-aluminum casing and is 7mm thick.
The new Intel SSD 730 Series comes with all-aluminum casing and is 7mm thick. Dong Ngo/CNET

Design and features
Available in the now-familiar 7mm chassis, the new 730 Series drive resembles previous Intel SSDs, such as the 520 Series. It boasts an all-aluminum casing that makes it feels solid but light. The drive takes the 2.5-inch standard design of internal drive and will fit in almost everywhere a standard SATA hard drive is used. The host device, such as a computer, needs to support the latest SATA 3 (6Gbps) standard to get the best performance out of it. It will show great improvement in a SATA 2-based systems, as well.

240GB 480GB
Device type 7mm, 2.5-inch SSD same
Interface SATA 3, SATA 2 same
Controller Third-gen Intel controller same
NAND flash memory 20nm Intel MLC flash same
Random read 86,000 IOPS 89,000 IOPS
Random write 56,000 IOPS 74,000 IOPS
Sequential read 550 MB/s 550 MB/s
Sequential write 270 MB/s 470 MB/s
Mean time between failures 2 million hours same
Energy consumption 3.8W (1.5W idle) 5.5W (1.5W idle)
Endurance 70GB written daily same
MSRP $249 $489
Warranty 5 years same

Intel says the new drive comes with a factory-overclocked SSD controller and NAND bus speeds. The controller clock is now at 600Mhz (up from 400Mhz in the previous model), and the NAND bus speed is now at 100Mhz (up from 83Mhz). It also comes with firmware optimized for clients (workstation and home PCs). In all, this is an SSD for the masses rather than for server applications. This also explains why it doesn't support hardware encryption, which requires supported motherboards -- generally available only in an enterprise environment -- to work properly.

The most impressive feature of the 730 Series is its endurance rating. All SSDs have a finite number of write, or program/erase cycles (P/E cycles), meaning you can only write so many times to them before they become unreliable. (Read more about endurance here.) Intel guarantees that you can write about 70GB on the new 730 Series per day, every day, for five years. Now, 70GB is a lot of data; most of us don't write even one-tenth of that on a given day, and definitely not every day. In short, you will likely have another reason to replace the drive well before it runs out of P/E cycles.

Cost per gigabyte
At the current cost of $249 (240GB) or $489 (480GB), the new Intel SSD 730 is slightly more than $1 per gigabyte and is one of the most expensive consumer-grade SSDs on the market. This is the suggested retail price, however, and the street price is likely lower when the drive is available for purchase next month. The drive does come with a 5-year warranty which somewhat justifies its pricing. Plus, it promises to last for a very long time.

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